The embarking wedding boat was ornately decorated, both with its golden moldings and with its variety of well-dressed guests. It was loud, exciting, and very human. The setting sun glowed in the distance, streaking the sky with colors.
Mako, standing on the dock, watched as the ship departed.
He watched as she departed.
He pressed his back against the column with a heavy sigh, sliding down.
He just didn't understand, neither why Korra had fallen so hard and so fast for this Noatak character nor why it hurt so bad to see her go. He'd been through so much in his life… losing his parents, wandering the oceans as a sea urchin, getting caught up in things he shouldn't have been in… he'd been through so much pain, and yet this hurt more than anything ever had before.
Mako rested his elbows on top of his knees, hanging his head and closed his eyes.
Defeat tasted bitter. And it hurt.
But what hurt wasn't the fact that the contract he'd signed could now never be fulfilled and that he would become a polyp, like so many others who'd failed. And it wasn't the fact that he'd never experience so many things that he still had not experienced. What hurt him, what ached deep in his chest, was the fact that he would never see her again.
Because he couldn't imagine his life without her.
Tenzin scuttled closer, worry and concern clear on his face. Bolin, watching from the water, openly cried seeing Mako so beaten, so broken.
And when Mako looked up, when he watched as the ship sailed into the glow of the sun, he felt empty. So very empty.
Jinora, Ikki, and Meelo soared through the sky, chasing one another, a blur of white wings. They were singing and laughing, but as they approached a ship, Jinora shushed them.
"Listen!" she said as they flew closer.
It was singing; a man's voice echoed from somewhere inside the ship. It sounded so familiar, the voice of someone they knew well. Who was inside the ship? They floated down and landed on the ship, poking their heads around to peer into the circular window.
"Things are working out according to my ultimate design," the man sang. He was tall and fit with dark hair and a handsome face. He wore a seashell necklace around his throat. They did not recognize him, but they knew his voice very well.
…It was Mako's.
Ikki gasped, but Jinora prodded her in the side before she had a chance to speak.
"Soon I'll have that little merman and the ocean will be mine!"
The man, standing in front of a vanity mirror, opened the drawer and reached inside. The three seagulls squished even closer to get a better view. The man pulled out a mask, white and gray and red.
The man laughed, cackling at his reflection in the mirror, the reflection that showed his true identity.
"Amon!" Meelo cried as the three jumped away from the ship, flapping their wings to remain airborne.
Ikki began to stammer. "Oh no— He's gonna— We've gotta—"
Jinora cut in: "We've got to tell Mako!"
And they were off again, racing through the skies back to the dock, where Mako still sat, staring blankly off into the distance.
"Makooooo!" Jinora yelled.
"Makooooooooo!" Ikki echoed.
They landed all at once; feathers flew off of them as they all tried to talk at once.
"We were flying, and then we heard a voice—"
"Yeah, we heard your voice!"
Mako looked at them, clearly confused; he put up his hands to slow them down, and they silenced one another. Jinora was the one who spoke clearly:
"It's Amon. Amon is marrying the princess in disguise."
Tenzin drew himself closer. "Are you sure about this?"
"Have I ever been wrong?" she said. Ikki and Meelo shook their heads behind her.
Mako stood up.
"Oh, this is bad," Bolin exclaimed. "This is really bad. Really, really bad. What are we going to do?" But Mako wasn't listening. All he could hear was Amon's warning, the words of their contract echoing in his mind. Before the sun sets on the third day…
He was still human.
He could do this.
So Mako sprinted to the edge of the dock, diving into the sea, his hands scooping the water behind him as he attempted to swim. But when he surface, he flailed, trying to keep himself afloat, trying to get his legs to work the same way his fin did without fail. He had to get to Korra, he had to. It didn't matter that he couldn't swim as a human. Nothing mattered except getting to her.
It didn't matter how hard it was.
But Tenzin was already snapping off the ropes that held a bundle of kegs together, and they rolled out into the sea.
"Grab on!" he cried, and Mako obeyed, gulping for air. "And Bolin!" he continued, "You get Mako to that ship as fast as you can!" Mako took the rope and threw the looped end over Bolin, who shimmied it around his body.
"You got it, sir!" Bolin said as he swam, Mako floating behind him.
"I've got to get to the Sea Queen," Tenzin said, speaking to himself. "She has to know."
"What about us?" Ikki asked.
"What about us? What about us?" Meelo repeated.
"You three need to find a way to stall that wedding!" And Tenzin dove beneath the water's surface. The seagulls spoke as one.
"Stall the wedding?"
"I know how."
They rose up into the air, squawking horribly as they flew, past the willow, past the sandbars, past the coast. And their cries for help were heard. Birds, dolphins, flamingoes, starfish… all looked up.
"This is an emergency!" Ikki told a group of seals while flying past. "Let's go!"
And the fleet rose up and followed them.
Korra was absolutely stunning.
She walked down the aisle, arm wrapped around Noatak's. Her white dress seemed to glow in the sunlight, and her hair was down, its light waves being tickled by the wind. And as they walked, the guests all couldn't take their eyes off the lovely couple, off their princess and Avatar, finally marrying. So nobody really noticed Naga growling at the groom, and nobody really noticed him kicking her in the muzzle.
And nobody noticed Korra's blank expression, her eyes locked in a trance, unfeeling and unloving and dead.
But still, the couple approached the acolyte, and stopped.
"Dearly beloved," he began.
Bolin struggled pulling the keg through the water.
"We'll… get there… Mako…" he said between gasping breaths. "I… believe I… can do it…"
Mako didn't doubt that he could, but as he looked at the setting sun, sinking lower and lower behind the horizon, he just didn't know if he'd be able to get there in time.
Before the sun sets on the third day…
Mako wasn't the only one watching the sun. Noatak glanced off to the side, watching it set with a smug expression as the acolyte stumbled over his words.
"Do- Do you, Avatar Korra.. ta-take this man to be your husband?"
"I do," she said. The acolyte continued:
"And do you, Noatak—"
A loud squawk pierced through the sky. No, that was more than one. Three different birds screeched as they soared closer. Noatak glanced up, just as Jinora, Ikki, and Meelo, followed by a flock of bluebirds dove down through the sky. He ducked quickly, covering his head, and the wind rushed over him.
They reeled around, racing back, this time flying between his legs. Korra was unfazed. Naga barked happily, Katara struggling to control her.
Seals leaped over the edge, honking as they flopped amongst the guests. The three seagulls poured water over Noatak, a lobster pinched his nose, and a group of starfish threw themselves onto him.
"Get off me!" he yelled, but the animals continued their assault.
Down below, Bolin finally reached the ship's side, and Mako grabbed onto one of the oars and began to pull himself up.
Korra was there; he had to help her, had to save her.
Noatak fell into the wedding cake, just as Mako grabbed the side rail and peered over the edge. Ikki was screaming into Noatak's face and Meelo was still spitting water on him and Jinora yanked at the seashell necklace and Naga, still barking, finally escaped Katara's hold and bounded forward. Noatak screamed as she bit his backside, and the necklace soared through the air towards Mako.
It shattered at his feet.
And everything happened at once. Mako's voice rose up, muffled at first, but growing louder and louder. Korra's eyes lost their dullness as the spell was broken. Noatak seethed. And the guests, including Katara, looked on in astonishment as Mako's voice returned to him, and he sang out one, final note, loud and clear and beautiful.
Korra turned to the sound.
"…Mako?" she said.
"Korra!" he said, testing his firebending in his hands as he approached. Naga jumped around him excitedly.
"You can talk!" Korra exclaimed, running forward and throwing her arms around Mako, letting him spin her through the air, dress whirling with her. She slid down his front, and their hands found each other effortlessly.
"Korra! Get away from her!" Noatak shouted, but his voice was different now. It was cold, commanding, no longer Mako's. His hand rose up to his mouth in shock.
"It was you all along!" Korra said, completely ignoring Noatak. "It was you! You're the one!" She stood on her tiptoes, holding Mako's hands close to her heart.
"Korra, I wanted to tell you," he said, leaning down. He pulled her up, closing the distance between their lips. He had her and she had him. Amon wouldn't, would never—
But pain shot through his legs, and he gasped at the sensation, falling against Korra. She held him up as his face contorted, as he reacted to the transformation. His pants started to rip. The skin on his legs burst open as the deep, red scales cut through, thousands of tiny slices racing across all at once, and it burned as his legs melted together once more.
"You're too late!" Noatak screamed. Mako sank to the ship's deck, fin flailing helplessly. "You're too late!" he repeated, arms raised up as his own transformation hit him. His clothes burst into shreds as his tentacles rushed out from beneath him. His mask, hidden somewhere in his jacket, clattered to the ground.
The wedding guests screamed.
Amon took a moment to secure his mask onto his face before rushing forward, walking on his hands with his tentacles flopping and pushing and twisting behind him. Mako summoned fire into his hands, but Amon grabbed onto Mako before he could attack and the two fell over the edge of the ship.
"Mako!" Korra reached over the side, bending the water away so she could see deeper, deeper, but they'd already gone.
Amon, hands clenched around Mako's wrist, did not react when he sent a burst of electricity through his arm. The two sunk down to the ocean's floor, Mako's jacket floating off him as they swam.
"Poor, little prince. It's not even you I'm after. I have much bigger fish to fry." His voice was so cold.
"Amon, stop!" Lin cried, trident in hand. Pieces of coral and chunks of rock were floating around her, responding to her fury. Tenzin glared up at Amon from beneath Lin's fin, and Amon only laughed.
"And how are you, Queen Lin?" he teased.
"Let him go!" A rock slammed into the ground threateningly.
"Not a chance. He's mine!" He yanked on Mako's wrist and threw him back. He made an attempt to swim forward, but Hiroshi and the Lieutenant had already wrapped themselves around his arms, pulling him back. "We made a deal!"
Mako struggled against the eels. "I'm sorry! Mom, I'm sorry!"
Amon summoned the contract, and it glowed ominously as he shoved it into Lin's face. She scanned over it.
For eternity, it read, but Lin was already shooting a blast of light out of her trident, forcing Amon back. The contract stayed unbroken, and Amon cackled. Lin gaped, knowing she was powerless.
"See? The contract's legal, binding, and completely unbreakable… even for you." He sneered as his tentacles undulated beneath him, pushing him close to Lin. "Of course… the son of the Sea Queen is a very precious commodity." The contract swirled shut with a blinding light, and jetted over to Mako. The light whorled around him, and he shrank down, the polyp transformation slowly affecting his body. "But!" Amon cut in. "I might be willing to make an exchange… for someone even better."
"Don't try to stop me," Korra said as she jumped over the ship's railing into the tiny boat floating at its side. She had ripped off her wedding gown, and was now wearing only her loose, white shirt and dark pants, which she had worn beneath the dress.
"Korra, what are you doing?" Katara yelled as she leaned over the side. Korra began to bend the water, forcing the boat to zoom across the surface.
"I've already lost him once. I'm not going to lose him again!"
"Now, do we have a deal?" Amon said, holding out the contract in front of Lin once more, whose face was determined as she tried to ignore the pain of watching Mako shrink lower and lower as he transformed.
She closed her eyes and raised her trident, signing her name over her son's.
"It's done then!" Amon cried, and Mako was rising up again in a swirl of light, changing back into a merman, while Lin began to shrink down, surrounded by the glow.
"No!" Mako yelled over Amon's laughter, but Lin was growing smaller and smaller, and she shrunk down, hidden by the walls of her crown. Tenzin stared at her as she peered over its side.
"Your Majesty…" he said, knowing that she was completely powerless because of that sacrifice. Amon had taken her bending. He knew it.
Mako's throat hurt, and he spoke softly. "Mom?"
Korra, spotting the glow above the surface of the water, stood above, one foot on the edge of her boat. She held a sharp rock aloft with bending, ready to chuck it down into the water.
His mother was nothing, a polyp, pathetically staring up at everyone from the sea floor. Mako's voice cracked, and the name he hadn't spoken since he was a merchild, the name he'd never called the Sea Queen, burst from his lips: "Mommy?"
And Amon reached down for the crown, lifting it up and placing it on his head.
"At last," he said. "It's mine!" The trident rose up into his hands, and he began to laugh once more as its glow lit him up, casting shadows on his mask.
Mako bent his fin beneath him and leaned forward to Lin, seeing her like he'd never seen her before: defeated, broken, nothing. A sick feeling tumbled through his body, and he glanced up at Amon. He felt his electricity coursing through his veins; it lit his hands up.
"You… you monster!" he shouted, pushing himself off the sea floor towards Amon. Hands outstretched, electricity burning through him, he focused his energy, ready to zap Amon. But just before Mako was able to latch himself onto him, Amon had lifted up the trident.
Mako froze in the water; his arms twitching, his fin stretching out, unnaturally straight.
"You're very skilled, little prince, but not even you can resist my full power."
He held the trident up to Mako's throat, the sharp points pressing into his skin, and he felt his body move under Amon's control, even more powerful now that the trident was so close. Mako didn't think Amon could bend, didn't know that anybody could bend like this…
But he knew it to be true, no matter how much he wanted it to be false.
Amon was a bloodbender.
"Besides, contract or no contract…" The points punctured Mako's neck slightly, and his body twisted, its levels of rigidity shifting. "You're mine—aaaAAH!" A sharpened rock had sliced the side of his arm, and Amon whipped around. Mako was released from his bloodbending grip, and he swam up to see what had thrown a rock down.
She glared down at Amon, expression fierce, ready for the challenge, but she didn't know Amon was a bloodbender. Mako raised a hand to attack. If he got her under his control, she wouldn't have any air and then—
"Korra, look out!"
And she swam to the side, bending the water around her, missing the line of light that had zipped past.
"Get her!" Amon yelled at Hiroshi and the Lieutenant, and the two eels gave chase while Amon forced Mako back under his control, his body writhing as he watched Korra make her escape. She threw her hands down at her side, and the water bent around her, jetting her back up to the surface. She broke through, taking one gasp of breath before the eels twisted themselves around her, yanking her back down under the water.
Her eyes were wide with fear.
"Come on!" Tenzin yelled, swimming to meet the tussle. He snapped his claws, bending bubbles before he clamped down on Hiroshi's tail. He succumbed to the pain and released Korra.
Bolin bounced on the ground, popping a chunk of earth up from the sea floor, and with a second bounce and a flap of a fin, sent it flying through the water to hit the other eel in the head. "Take that, mustache guy!" he shouted, and the Lieutenant also lost his grip on Korra, who was floating free in the water.
"Say goodbye to your little sweetheart," Amon teased, drawing his trident up, ready to fire at Korra.
Mako's fin ached as it jerked under Amon's bloodbending. But his hand was still raised, and nothing mattered more in that moment than saving Korra. He felt it, growing in his hand. He had to attack, but he couldn't do anything, but he had to something. He closed his eyes, face scrunching up with rage and exhaustion and willpower and it was there. The electricity burned down his arm and he threw his hand forward, grabbing onto one of Amon's tentacles; the shock rolled through him, and he lost his aim, shooting the jet of light from the trident not at Korra, but rather at Hiroshi and the Lieutenant.
A burst of light covered them, and they disappeared.
"No!" he growled, teeth clenched. Amon seethed, shadows billowing out from underneath him. Bolin and Tenzin stared, shaking, as Amon grew in size.
Mako, out of Amon's grip, swam up to meet Korra, who was bending herself upward as well. He broke through the surface and grabbed onto her.
"Korra, you have to get away. We have to get you out of here."
She looked at him fiercely. "I'm not leaving you!"
But bubbles were rising up from underneath them, the glow of magic lighting them from below. And Amon's crown, now unbelievably immense, broke them apart. They clung to the metal as Amon rose up from the sea.
Korra grabbed Mako's hand, and the two dove back down into the sea. Mako held Korra close as the waves crashed around them, as Amon rose above them, laughing.
"You pitiful fools!" Amon bellowed, voice deep and resounding.
"Look out!" Korra yelled as one of his massive tentacles came crashing down; the two ducked beneath the surface. The skies broke and it began to rain.
"I am the ruler of the ocean!"
"Korra!" Mako yelled, stretching his arm out as the powerful waves separated them. Korra swayed her hands and pushed up, lifting herself out of the water with bending, preparing for an attack, but Amon forced a giant wave to rise up; Korra lost her balance and was thrown back, flipping through the air and plummeting back into the ocean.
Mako stared up as Amon began to stir the sea with the trident, creating a whirlpool that pulled all the ocean debris up from the bottom, including the sunken ship.
"Bow down to my power!" Amon yelled, and Mako grabbed onto a nearby rock to avoid getting sucked into the whirlpool. Bending underwater wasn't going to work. He had to firebend. He summoned a flame into his palm, uncertain as what he should do; off in the distance, Korra was raising herself up in a column of water again, this time pushing her arms out, sending a burst of fire out at Amon. Mako imitated her, but both jets of flame seemed to do no damage.
If bending electricity wasn't working, and neither was firebending…
A steak of lightning ran across the sky.
But wait, maybe he could—
His train of thought stopped as Korra was swept below the surface once more, just as the sunken ship moved past, rising up out of the sea. She grabbed onto a dangling rope and started pulling herself up, finally tumbling over the side of the rotting ship.
Mako tore his eyes away from Korra to see Amon shoot a beam from the trident, hitting the rock he was gripping. He plummeted down into the powerful whirlpool, watching the ocean twist around him as he fell.
Up above, Korra sprinted to the helm, struggling to get it under her control. She attempted to bend the ocean around her, but it was impossible. She needed it. She needed to airb—
Mako hit the ocean floor with a thud, and looked up through the air to see Amon leering down at him, trident glowing as brightly as ever. More jets of light burst down, and Mako avoided the first two. As he flipped around, Mako felt it inside him. Not fire, like he had every time he tried to bend on the surface… he felt it.
He evaded another attack and spun around, jerking his hand back and out again, and lightning, crisp and cold, exploded out of his fingers.
Amon screamed and slowed, but regained his composure easily.
"Again, little prince," he bellowed, "It is a shame to kill someone so talented. I've never had someone break free from me before." Mako's eyes widened. Amon raised his trident, aiming it straight down at Mako. "For true love!"
Korra's heart stopped, and Katara's words came to her.
I promise you, one day all the practice you've been doing and all the time you've put into training will pay off, and everything will just click.
And besides, maybe your soulmate would be the key to unlocking your airbending.
She'd known it all along, but it took until this moment, with Amon poised and ready to kill, that it finally clicked.
He was the one.
"NO!" Korra screamed, punching the air, and it came, flying from her fist; she could airbend! The gust of wind she created rose up, billowing the sails. She had control of the ship again. She punched again, and the sails exploded with her power. The ship closed in on Amon, Korra bended the air around the sails one last time, and the broken bowsprit skewered Amon all the way through.
He cried out in pain and in anger, and his tentacles curled around the sides of the ship in one last effort, but Korra was leaping off the side, and bending herself through the sea. She pulled herself onto the sand, panting, and collapsed.
Amon's body sank, disappearing with bursts of light and smoke, and the trident he'd held fell down to the ocean floor. As it fell, all the polyps, all the merpeople whose bending Amon had taken, changed back into their original form. They fled from his lair, and the trident continued to fall. When it contacted the earth, right in front of Lin, she rose up, and grabbed it.
It was done.
Mako watched from afar.
Korra, still sleeping off her exhaustion on the shore, rolled in the sand, and he watched her, wishing that he could hold her hand, wishing that she could, somehow, know that he was there for her. She was safe now, but she'd definitely gotten hurt. There were cuts on her arms, for her sleeves had been ripped off her shirt at some point during the fight. Her pants were torn too at the knees; her legs showed blossoming bruises. She was safe, yes, but he wasn't with her.
And it hurt.
But while Mako was watching Korra, Lin was watching Mako. Tenzin floated at her side.
"He really does love her, doesn't he, Tenzin?" Lin said.
"Yes. I think he really does."
"Well… I guess there's only one problem left."
"And what's that, Your Majesty?" Tenzin asked.
"How much I'm going to miss him."
Tenzin looked up, shocked, as Lin dipped the trident down into the water, sending a warm, glittering light through the sea. It reached the rock where Mako was sitting, and his fin began to glow as well. When he realized what was happening and looked down at his fin, he began to smile, and when he looked up at his mother, that smile turned into a grin.
Lin nodded her approval.
Mako slipped off the rock into the water, feeling the change. But this time, it didn't pain him. It was warm and relaxing. His legs were strong now, and he walked up out of the water, just to see Korra stirring, drawing herself up. He rose up wearing a loose, red shirt that cut down to his chest, a long, black jacket, and brown pants. Korra stared, beaming at him, her eyes bright and clear. She stood shakily as Mako walked up to meet her on the shore.
But then he wasn't walking and neither was she. They were running to each other, actually running, the water splashing up around them. Mako's hands went for her waist and he lifted Korra high in the air, spinning her around once before letting her down gently, holding her close. And they stared at each other for a moment, simply smiling and holding one another because it couldn't be real.
But it was real. It was.
Korra stood on her tiptoes and Mako leaned down, and their lips pressed together, slowly at first, and then hard and wanting.
It was real.
They broke apart from their first kiss as husband and wife with grins, Naga jumping in between them, wanting to give her own kisses. Both Asami and Katara were dabbing their eyes with a handkerchief.
Down in the ocean, Queen Lin floated on the surface with the rest of her sons and a whole crowd of merfolk. They all waved at Mako. He leaned over the edge, waving at them. Meelo, Ikki, and Jinora flew to greet him, Meelo holding Bolin with his feet.
Mako smiled at Bolin, reaching forward for a hug. Bolin waved, a tear slipping down the side of his cheek as Meelo lowered him back down to the water. Pabu lifted off a tentacle and gave Mako a wave as well before he slipped out of sight, back to where Tenzin was waiting for them.
Mako stayed at the side, watching as Lin rose up out of the water, rose up to Mako so that she could say goodbye. Wordlessly, she held her arms out, the arms that had been there for him through so much, who had lifted him up all those times. Mako leaned and embraced her.
"I love you, Mom."
Releasing his mother from the hug, Mako felt his eyes prickling with tears, but smiled once more when he saw Korra standing behind him. She bowed to Queen Lin, who returned the gesture with a nod.
Lin touched his face and sank back down into the water. Korra walked up to Mako, linking her arm around his and looking out into the ocean. They waved their final goodbye, just as Lin, waving her trident, sent a rainbow out over the wedding ship.
And when Mako couldn't see his family anymore, when he could no longer see the world he loved and left behind, he turned to Korra again, and held her face in his hands. He didn't need the words for her to know how much he loved her.
He didn't need words.
Only a kiss.
Now we can walk,
Now we can run,
Now we can stay
All day in the sun
Just you and me
And I can be
Part of your world